Tying the Past to the Present:
Looking Through the Lens of History to Learn Lessons for Today
This is the theme of my website–its raison d’être. When the site first went up, I said the “Past, recent, and present history is included in this website’s definition of HIStory. The purpose is to inform, encourage, and entertain.” Though I am interested in historical information garnered while researching for my novels, I’m more interested to learn how lessons from the past, recent or distant, can be applied to my life today. What can I learn from people who lived centuries before me? Did they struggle with similar life issues? How well did they deal with them? Am I able to learn from their mistakes?
I recently completed a Digital Photography class as part of my Digital Media Arts and Design degree program. The assignments provided plenty of opportunities for me to look through the viewfinder of my camera and to experiment with the aperture, shutter, and film speed settings, and to experience the difference in emotional impact when I used a telephoto lens for the up-close-and personal shots compared to those with a shorter lens and greater depth of field. We were discouraged from photographing any subject at eye-level, but encouraged to take our shots from a vantage point either much higher or lower. We were forced to see subjects from a different perspective.
The lessons I learned from this photography class were brought home to me suddenly and unpleasantly a few weeks ago, when my daughter-in-law, Heather, died unexpectedly from surgical complications. She left a husband and two preteen children. I don’t know why Heather’s death shocks so many of us, because we all have the same appointment. I wonder if the loss of someone this young points the lens of our own mortality back at us? After all, I think, if Death can sneak in and take someone this young, he can come to me or someone else I love. What a truly uncomfortable, frightening thought! Turn that lens around and point it in some other direction, please!
Heather’s death caused me to slow down and reevaluate my priorities. When I interact with the people in my life, what lens do I use to view them–the up-close-and-personal, or the lens with the greater depth of field? Different lenses are appropriate in different situations, but am I using the right one at the right time? Do I see all the little faults when I should be stepping back and seeing the big picture? Am I viewing these people from the ordinary, eye-level point of view, or should I change vantage points to get a different perspective?